Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Crush

I’ve written before about my reservations with OMD, and this is not the right time to bring them up again, but honestly their mid-80s period is probably my least favourite, so when a reader inadvertently suggested recently that I give it another chance, I did approach it with a little caution.

But this week is its thirtieth anniversary, and I haven’t actually listened to some of the songs here for half a decade, so it seems fair that it should get another listen now. Also, I’m listening to the vinyl version here, as I never actually bought the CD. This shouldn’t be as unusual as it is, but it makes a pleasant change now.

The first track is the lovely So in Love, easily the best thing they recorded between Enola Gay and Sailing on the Seven Seas. If you bought this album solely for this one song, you wouldn’t be disappointed, as it’s pretty much as close to a perfect song as you can get. It’s afterwards that everything falls apart.

Or does it? I remember Secret as being totally awful, but while it’s still far from my favourite song, now it somehow sounds charming. It still isn’t quite as good as the first track, but that would be a lot to ask.

My recollections aren’t all inaccurate though – I remembered Bloc Bloc Bloc as being OK but not great, and I think that’s fair. It’s funny, because it’s definitely an album track, and it does work pretty well here actually – it just isn’t especially good. The rest of Side I is similar – enjoyable, but a bit daft in places. Women III has a nice “groove” and bounces along in a pleasant, if slightly cheesy fashion, while the title track Crush is one of OMD‘s odder moments. Again, it’s pleasant – just very strange.

As with The Pacific Age which followed a year later, this album was produced in its entirety by Stephen Hague, who was one of the people who made the 1980s sound a lot better than they otherwise might have and continues to produce exceptionally good albums to this day.

Side II starts with 88 Seconds in Greensboro, a slightly inexplicable song which, as with much of this LP, shows very clear signs of having been written with the American market in mind. It’s tempting to wonder if that might have been what they were thinking with the cover image too, which I’m still really struggling to describe as anything other than ill-advised.

Some tracks sound more promising than others – The Native Daughters feels as though it’s a backing track for a much catchier song. It’s nearly extremely good, but there’s something missing. Maybe the vocals are just mixed too low, or maybe the melody isn’t very good – it’s difficult to tell, because the drummer clearly seems to have “got” it.

La Femme Accident is next, and was only a minor hit in the UK. I have to say I can see why – it’s nice enough, but it really doesn’t have much going for it otherwise as far as I’m concerned. In fact, compared to its predecessors, this album wasn’t enormously successful in OMD‘s home market, which is why I was surprised to learn that it had been their first major success in the USA.

I suppose I could summarise it by saying that it’s just a bit too understated. Hold You is probably the best song on Side II, and even then the chances of me remembering it a few days after listening are relatively slim. The final track The Lights are Going Out too, is almost haunting, but it still feels as though it’s missing something somehow.

So Crush is, as it turns out, a lot less bad than I remember, although I’m still not entirely convinced. But for everything that might be wrong with it, it did at least bring us So in Love, which gives it some extra leverage, and Secret was pretty good too. The mid-1980s were, as it turns out, not quite as cruel to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as I’d remembered.

You can find the original CD release of Crush through major retailers, such as here.

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